Latest Stories

Ancient stone church survives Typhoon ‘Pablo’


STILL STANDING Most residents of Caraga town in Davao Oriental call it a miracle after the 128-year-old church of San Salvador del Mundo withstood the rampage of Typhoon “Pablo.” NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

CARAGA, Davao Oriental—For 128 years, the stone and wooden church of San Salvador del Mundo near a promontory facing the Pacific Ocean has stood as a sentinel against intruders from the sea and a beacon of hope.

The old mission station built by Recollect priests during the 19th century held its ground against Typhoon “Pablo,” surprising residents.

Buildings around it crumbled in the face of monster winds gusting up to 200 kilometers per hour as the howler swept across Mindanao on Dec. 4 last year, flattening communities and plantations and leaving over 1,000 dead, 800 missing and tens of thousands homeless.

“Most people consider it a miracle,” said Caraga parish priest Uldarico Turoba.

“The church is very close to the shore; it is located along the coast but except for some of its GI (galvanized iron) sheets that were blown off, it practically survived almost unscathed the strongest storm to visit Mindanao,” Turoba said, glancing at the wrecked dome of the St. Mary’s College building across the street.

Regarded as the oldest surviving stone church in Mindanao, the edifice was built in 1884. It used to serve as Spain’s first mission station in Mindanao.

Nat’l historical site

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared the church a national historical site on July 16 last year, Caraga town’s fiesta, giving it the iconic stature of such recently recognized landmarks as Camp Crame in Quezon City, the Schoolhouse of the Women of Malolos and the Gomburza execution site, among many others.

Ludovico Badoy, the commission’s executive director, has said that the church is significant not only for Davao Oriental but also for the whole country because this is where “Christianity began” in this part of the Philippines.”

The insignia on its main door bears the symbol of Christ and dates back to the church’s foundation.

From where it stood a few paces away from the promontory, the church, as the townspeople like to believe, strategically guarded the town against intruders.

Among the old artifacts that the church still holds are a church bell dating back to 1802, two gigantic seashells more than a hundred years old serving as holy water font for churchgoers, an antique baptismal basin near the entrance and an ancient statue of San Isidro Labrador.

TOPLESS In front of the old stone and wooden church is the St. Mary’s College building, which lost its dome as the typhoon blew into town. NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Minor damage

But Turoba said the church was not totally spared from the typhoon. He admitted having soldered back at least 38 pieces of GI sheets to its roofing after they were damaged by the wind.

“But unlike its surrounding structures, the Caraga church underwent only a minor damage,” he said, noting that the old GI sheets used by the church were sturdier compared to those in the market now, which could have explained the relatively minor damage to its roofing.

“This can only mean that our church is strong, it has been with us for a long time, it had withstood the test of time; now it has survived the strongest typhoon to have hit Mindanao,” Turoba said.

“I can’t even say the typhoon’s effect was minimal because in some areas, coconut trees were uprooted, the roofs of houses were ripped off,” he said.

He said that like everything else, the recent typhoon brought an important message to the people. “And the message is that we should take care of the environment and that we should strengthen our faith, just as the church of Caraga has withstood the test of time.”

Originally posted: 9:49 pm | Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Calamities , Catholic Church , Davao Oriental , local churches , local history , miracles , oddity , Philippines - Regions , San Salvador del Mundo , Typhoon Pablo

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Sayyaf man linked to Sipadan kidnapping falls
  • Drilon calls for sobriety as mudslinging, witch hunts loom due to pork scam
  • S. Korea ferry toll hits 150 as search gets tougher
  • If Napoles names Aquino allies, they’ll be brought to bar of justice – Palace
  • Lacson says diamond-studded earring snatched from wife fake
  • Sports

  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Pacers rally past Hawks 101-85 to even series
  • David Moyes out as Manchester United manager
  • Nadal to face fellow Spaniard at Barcelona Open
  • Defensive Chelsea holds Atletico in scoreless draw
  • Lifestyle

  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Sweet party for Andi Manzano
  • Entertainment

  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Summer movie preview: Bay reboots ‘Transformers’
  • Business

  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • $103M Vista Land bonds tendered for redemption
  • Oil slips to $102 as US crude supplies seen rising
  • SC stops Meralco power rate hike anew
  • Technology

  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Brazil passes trailblazing Internet privacy law
  • New York police Twitter campaign backfires badly
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • No word yet on inking of US-PH defense pact during Obama visit
  • Filipina, 51, shot dead by 24-year-old American boyfriend
  • China, rivals sign pact to ease maritime tensions
  • Visa-free US trip? Do not believe it, says consulate
  • Obama visit to Asia seen as counterweight to China
  • Marketplace